Having just written about Dr Who, the obvious link of John Barrowman takes me into the third part of today’s televisual adventures (the first being the Man United game, which I don’t care enough to talk about, ok?)
Appropriately enough, this also gives me some fuel on the very topic from which my username was born. I used to work (and practically live) in the West End after I first ran away to London. It was the theatre that brought me here, and while I can trade Shakespeare quotes and rhapsodise about Chekov with the best of them, my own work experience and great love is for musicals. Considering that one of my defining qualities is my utter snobbery (especially when it comes to the theatrical) it may seem incongrous that I should give musical theatre the time of day. But I do, and I love it, so shut up.
Any Dream Will Do was always likely to wind me up. I avoided last year’s travesty about the Sound of Music until the final, the edges of which were dulled by cheap wine and furniture assembly. Predictably, I’m rooting for the ugly Scots and the one semi-professional (the spit of Owen Hargreaves) who will probably get chucked out when it’s revealed that he’s sabotaging the whole competition as part of a protest from Equity.
I have no real problem with the X-Factor/Fame Academy setup, because the music industry is huge and already prone to rewarding on a basis other than simple merit. But theatre is different, painfully different. It requires training and discipline, which is why stunt casting has been known to backfire before now – McNuggets anyone? The My Fair Lady débacle (before the divine Joanna Riding swept in to save the day) seems to have sparked a trend for leading ladies cutting performances to six a week, often with a far less famous alternate (different from an understudy). Even “Peggy” Paige, who never missed a performance in over a year’s worth of Chess has been reduced to missing a fair share of performances since her health problems after doing the super-demanding Piaf. The winner of the Maria show is getting pelters for missing performances left, right and centre; and that does suck when an actress really can’t help getting ill. But I’ve seen the real pros go on with broken bones and head colds and concussions, being stuck three floors up, suspended on bits of wire above the audience (despite suffering from Vertigo), smacked into the proscenium arch by accident and having scenery dropped on them. And they still make it out after the interval.
So if people who have slogged their guts out working on some of the most demanding scores outside of opera can’t always shoulder the load, why should a bunch of builders and secretaries be able to manage it? Not many people can be another Michael Ball, who may be loathsome, but he also managed to use his not inconsiderable voice consistently without formal training. But then, he’s traded in long-running musicals for touring the country to excite the libidos of middle-aged women with questionable taste (the Cliff Richard market, if you will).
So imagine my distaste to see this parade of identikit bland “Joseph”s. It may not be the most credible role in the history of theatre, but you need to have a bit of something about you. Aside from the overwhelming tides of gayness (especially the super-effeminate Johndeep who basically came out to his family on national television – nice one, crying boy!), there’s just not enough raw talent. Say what you like, but when Donny Osmond dons his loincloth (oh my brain!) and belts out “Close Every Door”, you don’t find yourself wondering if you remembered to switch the oven off.
John Barrowman, he of the truly awful Torchwood and some pretty bland West End performances, did get major points for referencing the McNuggets mess I mentioned above (I believe my exact words were, “okay Barrowman, even I’d blow you for bringing that up”), not to mention his token bit of being Scottish and saying “pure dead brilliant” on primetime television. Well done that man of indeterminate nationality, perhaps we’re kindred spirits after all!